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No time to rest on laurels for new MSP Karen

By Alan Beresford

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NEW challenges and a sense of hope have been the order of the day over the last few weeks for new kid on the Scottish Parliament block Karen Adam.

Victory is sweet for Karen Adam after a nail-biting count
Victory is sweet for Karen Adam after a nail-biting count

Ms Adam held the Banffshire and Buchan Coast seat for the SNP at the May 6 election after a nail-biting count, winning with a majority of 772.

The former Aberdeenshire councillor has since been acclimatising to the new and very different world of Holyrood.

She said: "As far as the count itself went, I'm a bit of realist as well as an optimist and I knew from the outset we needed to get our message out as much as possible during the campaign.

"We weren't complacent about it, we took nothing for granted and fought the seat as if it was one which we were going to lose.

"In the end, though, I still say that if Brexit was as good a deal for the constituency as the Tories said it was then they should've walked the seat rather than losing.

"It was a nerve-racking count, you couldn't really tell from the piles of votes which had been counted who was ahead. It was a huge relief when I won.

"Since the election, I've been finding my feet although everything's been very well organised by the Scottish Parliament staff. The logistics of it all has been the hardest part, I think.

"It's been very overwhelming emotionally, I feel so privileged to be here. At the same time I feel extremely humble – when I walked into the chamber for the first time I felt this great sense of responsibility.

"I'm really excited to be here."

Her first day in the parliament, when she and the other MSPs were formally sworn in, saw Ms Adam come face to face with many people she had only previously seen on the TV. As the ceremony is conducted on an alphabetical order after the party leaders are sworn in, she found herself near the front, sitting behind Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie.

There was a special moment for Ms Adam from none other than First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, with a nod to both Ms Adam's deaf father Len Mellis and the work she has done promoting British Sign Language (BSL).

Ms Adam continued: "When I was sworn in Nicola she gave me a double thumbs up – sign language for 'well done' – and mouthed 'well done' as well.

"I kept thinking to myself 'Is this all real?', it was very overwhelming. I don't think I've come down from it all yet, it's been a case of straight into work."

Ms Adam was to make history by becoming the first MSP to use BSL as part of her affirmation.

Karen Adam and her dad Len Mellis.
Karen Adam and her dad Len Mellis.

Her election has also meant a major change for her five sons, aged nine to 22, who live at home – her daughter is married with two children – as she commutes between Edinburgh and the north-east.

Ms Adam continued: "The boys have all stepped up to the plate and taken responsibility since I was elected.

"The oldest boy is really on it, cooking, cleaning, washing and generally doing a lot. He's loving it.

"Growing up in a single parent environment meant they did have to take more responsibility which has helped a lot."

Taking a stroll with son Isaac.
Taking a stroll with son Isaac.

In the immediate term, Ms Adam highlighted getting her support staff in place – something she described as a "very personal decision" – as a major priority as well as getting a constituency office up and running. In the latter case accessibility, especially for those who rely on public transport, is a major consideration.

Looking ahead to the new Scottish Parliament term, Ms Adam said: "On a personal level, I'm looking forward to finding my feet and getting back into the constituency more.

"I was so connected with the constituency during the campaign then being whisked away to parliament. Once I get my constituency office up and running that should help a lot.

"In terms of the SNP government, we really want to get going with our programme for the first 100 days of parliament, we need to focus on our recovery from the pandemic.

"It's brilliant that the restrictions are coming down and a sense of normality is beginning to return. We must continue to guide people safely through this."

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